The Rapidian

New coffee shop, art collective to join East Hills

Lightfast Coffee Bar + Art Collective will be opening later this month in the East Fulton Business District, showcasing rotating art from local artists and brewing French press, Chemex and Woodneck coffees.
Kate Helmreich, owner, and Richard Mooney, assistant manager at Lightfast Coffee Bar + Art Collective

Kate Helmreich, owner, and Richard Mooney, assistant manager at Lightfast Coffee Bar + Art Collective /Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

Underwriting support from:
LaMorzocco espresso machine from Florence, Italy

LaMorzocco espresso machine from Florence, Italy /Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

Lightfast Coffee Bar + Art Collective

Lightfast Coffee Bar + Art Collective /Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

Lightfast Coffee Bar + Art Collective will be opening on the edge of the Midtown and East Hills neighborhoods in late January. The coffee bar is named after an art term about paint that stands the test of time.

Owner Kate Helmreich hopes to create a space that's supportive and welcoming to the local neighborhood and to artists themselves. Each month Lightfast will feature a new artist and opening party.

“Being an artist myself, I always thought it’d be fun to have a coffee shop and sell art out of it," she says. "I feel really blessed to be able to do it.” 

Helmreich moved to Grand Rapids two years ago for art school, but decided to pursue a business supporting other artists instead. She says she has worked to create a handmade ethos that goes well beyond just the art on the walls, even to the espresso machine, which was handmade in Florence, Italy by La Marzocco.

“Apart from just being a gallery space, from the beginning I wanted to incorporate art and other artists with the business. So the tables are handmade by a craftsman and family friend, Dave Mielens. He also custom designed and handmade the coffee shop’s bar. The mosaic mirror is made by an artist Sher Keene. Even the coffee cups [are] handmade ceramic cups by Kyle LaDuke. And our neon sign was custom-bent by Mike Le Croix at The Neon Connection.”

Eighty percent of Lightfast’s coffee will be Populace Coffee from Bay City, Michigan, with the other 20% rotating as featured guest coffees each month.

As the coffeeshop grows, Helmreich hopes to host artist talks for the community and even "artist exchanges," gatherings where artists themselves can share ideas, exchange supplies and support each other.

The coffeeshop will also feature Spirit Tea, a new company from Chicago, which sells high quality, small sourced batches of tea.

“They’re great at educating customers about how to brew the best cup of tea. We’ve actually gone over to Chicago and they’ve given us a lesson on how to brew tea. What’s interesting is that they have a program called 'Tea for Trees' where they plant a tree in a forest each order sold. The forest they picked happens to be in Michigan, Au Sable, so we’re the first customer of theirs supporting our own national forest, which we’re very excited about,” says Richard Mooney, the assistant manager.

Lightfast will be able to serve coffee made with French press, Chemex or Woodneck brewing methods. It will also feature nitro cold-brewed coffee on tap, handmade chai, a custom flavor of kombucha from Bloom Ferments and custom house soda pops.

Lightfast's first artist will be Benjamin Meyette, local landscape and cityscape photographer.

Lightfast Coffee + Art Collective is located at 944 Fulton Street E. They are also on Facebook.

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